Will there ever be a Trump-branded peace plan for the Palestinians?

You would think that if you wanted to win over the Palestinians, you would not renege on any of the other promises already made to them.
Sunday 02/09/2018
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, center, listens as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Palestine at United Nations headquarters. (AP)

When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States he remarked that forging a peace deal between Israelis and Palestinians would not be that difficult. In his typically bombastic style, he promised the agreement would be “the greatest” peace deal ever seen.

Nearly two years later, it turns out that forging a peace agreement has proven more difficult than Trump said. It has been made harder by his administration’s actions, which repeatedly favour Israeli interests over Palestinian.

There was the decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem over strong objections from Palestinians and many world leaders, the removal from US State Department documents of all reference to Palestinian independence and a two-state solution and comments by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, on the UN agency that provides aid to many in the West Bank and Gaza.

Kushner, who heads the mysterious operation on preparing the “greatest” peace deal, called for the “disruption” of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East. The agency is much hated by Israel.

These are just a few of the slights Palestinians say they have suffered at the hands of the US administration.

Even if the Trump team does announce a peace plan in the coming months — and there have been signs of action such as the hiring of additional members to Kushner’s team — it is unlikely to be greeted warmly by the parties to the dispute.

Even the Israelis would not be too quick to applaud any plan that promotes economic gains for Gaza and, by extension, Hamas, as Kushner has hinted it might. Israel’s conservative coalition government will not be interested in a plan that requires a halt to the illegal and growing occupation of Palestinian land. This has been proceeding with hardly any political cost to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s government.

Then there are the Arab states in the region, which have taken a wait-and-see attitude to the Trump administration’s plans. They know they will be counted on to provide much of the economic support for Kushner’s plan if it ever materialises. They want to see what the costs might be. They have decided not to publicly comment on any of Kushner’s questionable remarks because they are quietly working with Israel against Iran and Syria.

For them, the most difficult issue will be the final status of Jerusalem. Arab states know that if they endorse a plan that hands complete control of Jerusalem to the Israelis, it will be a public relations coup for the Iranians. However, it’s hard to see the Trump administration putting forward a plan that wouldn’t move in that direction.

Most opposed to a Trump peace plan are the Palestinians. They say there is no reason to believe anything the Trump administration tells them. Apparently, Kushner and his team believe the Palestinians will want to return to negotiations once the framework for a peace agreement is announced.

Even so, the Trump administration has done little to the signal it wants Palestinian support for a plan. With just a few weeks left in the current US fiscal year, less than half of the $251 million set aside for the Palestinians has been released. You would think that if you wanted to win over the Palestinians, you would not renege on any of the other promises already made to them.

In the end, the “deal of the century,” as Trump once called it, is unlikely to succeed if it ever sees the light of day. Previous US administrations with much better intentions were unable to create a lasting peace.

When there is a US administration such as the current one, which has so publicly laid its cards at one end of the negotiating table, it’s hard to see how a new peace plan will be better than previous ones or how it can have a different ending than other peace proposals.

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